THE National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) on Thursday rallied behind top foreign coach Stanislav Lapidus, who was accused of seeking sexual favours from junior shooters. While assigning the task of putting together a final report on the incident to the Athletes’ Commission, NRAI president Raninder Singh said the shooting body had ‘full faith’ in the 63-year-old.
The allegations surfaced when top shooter Anjali Bhagwat’s husband Mandar wrote an email on June 9 — a copy of which was shown by Singh to the media on Thursday — which highlighted what he called a ‘joint complaint about our foreign coach Mr Lapidus’. The joint complaint was made on behalf of Bhagwat and other senior shooters, including Suma Shirur, Sanjeev Rajput and Ayonika Paul and the two junior shooters. In this email, Mandar alleged that Lapidus had sought sexual favours, according to NRAI president Raninder Singh. The email was addressed to Singh. In the email Mandar stated an instance in which a 17-year-old shooter had approached Lapidus for some coaching tips, to which he asked, How old are you, When she said she was only 17, Lapidus allegedly shot back at her saying ,Come back when you are 21. Based on the complaint, the NRAI conducted an inquiry, which included the two junior shooters, as well as other coaches, and found no substance in these allegations. We did conduct an inquiry after we got those e-mails. These were serious allegations against our coach. and when we questioned these two young shooters, they conceded that they had signed the letter due to the pressure from Bhagwat and Shirur, NRAI president Raninder Singh said. These allegations are baseless and we stand by our coach. Bhagwat told me that the allegations against Lapidus (sexual favours) were made in a fit of anger, Singh said. Despite repeated attempts, Bhagwat could not be reached for comment.When asked if action would be taken against Bhagwat, Singh said that the Atheltes Commission would look into this particular aspect too. The NRAI does not have the power to do that as neither Bhagwat nor any of the shooters had signed any formal agreement or contract with the federation. The Athletics Commission will sit after the ISSF World Cup in Gabala, Azerbaijan, and will decide the future course of action, Singh added. Singh added that he even had a meeting with Bhagwat and Lapidus last month, in which they both had amicably resolved their long-standing differences. According to Singh, trouble between the two had erupted in May this year when Bhagwat was training in Hannover for the World Cup, during which an argument had taken place over the use of ammunition. The NRAI president also said that prior to the June 9 email there was a previous email which highlighted the tension between Anjali and the coach. On June 7, Bhagwat, Suma Shirur, Sanjeev Rajput along with Ayonika Paul, Lajja Goswami, Kuheli Ganguly and Tejaswini Sawant sent me a joint email alleging rude behaviour and bias towards certain senior shooters on the part of Lapidus, Singh said.